One of the most important additions to the conversation on self-improvement and well-being in the past ten years has easily been emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (or EQ) helps us interact with others more effectively, and us being social creatures, this makes a big difference in a lot of ways, from our level of success to even how happy we are.

Unfortunately, the truth is, as important as emotional intelligence may be – many of us have a low EQ. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to improve your emotional intelligence and how you navigate both your own emotions and critical interactions with others.

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Some of the greatest moments in human history were fueled by emotional intelligence.

– Adam Grant

Emotional intelligence is defined as:

The capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).

Notice that this isn’t just one thing, it encompasses everything that has to do with emotions and how we deal with them both in ourselves and others. With that said, the methods below help develop various aspects of emotional intelligence, whether that’s learning to identify and differentiate emotions within yourself or read others and know how to react more skillfully.

1. Develop self-awareness

Much of the conversation on emotional intelligence has focused on the latter part of its definition: discerning the emotions of others and using that emotional information to guide thinking and behavior when interacting with others.

However, a big part of EQ is your ability to recognize your own emotions and to tell them apart with clarity. But more than that, I’ve found that developing self-awareness through practices like self-reflection, journaling, and meditation provides a strong foundation for helping us discern the emotions of others.

2. Spy

I know, what the heck is this about? But stay with me.

For this method, we turn outward to work on discerning the emotions of others. I want you to visit a coffee shop, mall, or some other busy public place where people will (likely) never notice that you’re discreetly watching them.

Specifically, I want you to search out two people who are having a conversation and try to discern what emotions they’re feeling as they go about their conversation.

This might sound weird at first, however, learning to read the emotions of others is an important part of emotional intelligence and watching others converse can help you develop the ability to detect various emotions on others’ faces and in their body language.

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3. Practice mindful communication

Mindful communication is more direct than the previous method, therefore it is generally more worthwhile, albeit a little more difficult.

Mindful communication involves two different efforts:

  1. Deep listening: This is about learning to listen closely as someone is speaking. What emotions are they exhibiting? What words are they using? How else (perhaps physically) are they expressing themselves? Learning to identify these signs is a huge part of emotional intelligence.
  2. Mindful speech: This is about being in tune with your own emotions while in conversation with another and how your words can and do impact then.

4. Change your perspective

Lastly, practicing a little change of perspective can help you develop your emotional intelligence in a different, more indirect way. By changing your perspective, I’m referring to changing your frame of reference when interacting with yourself and others.

The way we look at ourselves and the world around us is affected by various internal beliefs. It’s the perspective we go about life with and it influences everything we do. However, if you practice asking questions like, “is there another way to look at this?”, you can often unearth a new way to see things, both within yourself and with others. This especially helps identify things you hadn’t noticed before and leads to a better understanding of what others might be feeling.

Emotional intelligence is a critical skill that helps us move about life in a more effective way, from handling our own emotions to interacting with others. Invest time into improving your own EQ to take advantage of this invaluable skill to move your life and career forward.


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